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A Marketer’s Guide to Optimizing Paid Search Using Advanced Attribution

Volume 6, Issue 6 - June, 2016

Aman Khanna, Client Partner, Visual IQ

Over the years, paid search has been called many things: a medium for hand raisers, reactive advertising, and most recently, a closer. This latest distinction arose from the notion that paid search is typically seen at the end of the customer journey and is the source that “seals the deal.” As a closer, paid search has benefited enormously under last-click measurement, leaving many search marketers skeptical about moving to more advanced measurement approaches. Fears around compensation and budget reallocations abound. After all, advanced attribution is about giving credit where credit is due, and there will be winners and losers. So while search marketers’ fears aren’t unfounded, they can be overcome by showing how advanced attribution can help cultivate their efforts, rather than cannibalize them:

1) It Uncovers the Relationship Between Paid vs. Organic Search
A little known fact is that advanced attribution not only helps optimize direct response (DR) and brand-focused paid search campaigns, but can also be used to optimize organic search efforts as well. Imagine a scenario in which your attributed metrics reveal a paid search term is under-performing against a defined DR or brand engagement KPI. Your inclination may be to pause the keyword, but what if it’s driving clicks and is therefore still perceived as ‘brand worthy’? As an alternative, consider creating a list of non-performing paid search terms and a list of brand-worthy terms. Then, use the common terms from both lists to optimize your organic search efforts. Once you start to generate enough organic traffic from those terms, only then should you consider turning them off in your paid search campaigns.

2) It Helps Search Teams Spend Better, Not Less
Reallocating budget from non-performing keywords, ad groups or campaigns is the low-hanging fruit of advanced attribution that takes little effort, but yields great results. Most marketers waste anywhere between 5-20% of their paid search budget on keywords that have a high CPA and no conversion value. This spend can be reinvested into testing strategies designed to improve ROI, such as:

  • Keyword Expansion: Testing new keywords that weren’t previously introduced due to lack of budget.
  • A/B Testing: Testing various creative messages and/or landing pages to determine what is most effective at the ad group or campaign level.
  • New Product Exploration: Expanding your paid search footprint across content match or product listings (as applicable to your industry).
  • Branded vs. Non-Branded Search: Reallocating funds to non-branded search terms that are often losers in the last-click world but could be acting as advancers.

3) It Reveals Paid Search’s Halo Effect
All too often, paid search marketers look at their efforts in a vacuum, as if they operate exclusively from other channels. In reality, paid search works in harmony will other channels to move prospects through the funnel toward conversion. Online display, paid social, paid search, and email influence once another, and the degree to which different channels lift each other must be understood and analyzed over time. For instance, advanced attribution can help you understand how much lift each online display combination (ad size, creative, publisher, placement, offer, etc.) provides to each keyword and search engine combination. With these inter-channel insights, you can optimize your search efforts accordingly—either manually, or by sending you attributed metrics to your bidding platform via an automated feed.

The next time you find yourself asking why you should invest more time and money into optimizing paid search when it typically loses credit under an advanced attribution model, remember the goal: to arm yourself with the intelligence you need to not only optimize your paid search efforts, but those of your marketing ecosystem as a whole. By employing the strategies above, you’ll have begun your journey towards better paid search results, and a better overall marketing ROI.

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